NHS unable to meet demand, warn thousands of nurses

RCN survey shows financial squeeze and staff shortages put huge pressure on nursing staff 

Only one in ten nursing staff believes the health service is able to meet demand, an RCN survey has found.

The results of the poll, which coincide with the start of the college’s annual congress in Glasgow, also show a third of nurses feel the system needs ‘serious improvement’.

The RCN surveyed more than 10,000 UK nursing staff between February and March this year. In total, 84% said they have been affected by caring for a rising number of older patients.

Staff shortages

Over three quarters said that NHS finances have worsened over the course of their careers, and 30% identified staff shortages as the biggest problem facing the future of nursing.

One nurse said: ‘We are constantly being told to reduce cost, and our services are constantly being 'squeezed'. But how much more can we take away from an already failing service?’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said members’ concerns needed to be heard: ‘The NHS’ financial pressures are very real and can’t be ignored. A concerted effort to put nursing at the heart of new models of care, as well as providing adequate social care, will go a long way towards helping it to meet demand.

Changing care needs

‘The nursing workforce also needs to be given the tools and opportunity to adapt to the nation’s changing care needs. It’s not just about having more nurses, but having the right specialist nurses in the right settings.’

RCN Scotland associate director Norman Provan said he wasn’t surprised by the survey results after regularly hearing from members about pressures on services.

‘We are in the five-year cycle of politicians making decisions about the NHS on the basis of whether it will be politically beneficial rather than what might be best for their constituents,’ he said.

Pay and conditions

Mr Provan expalined that it was important to maintain consistent pay and conditions across all four countries in the UK, even if health policies differed, to avoid nurses migrating to areas where they believe the working conditions are better.

‘You have thousands of nurses talking about the pressures they are under in this survey, where’s the response?’ he added.

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